The O'Reilly Report

Broncos Update contributor Dan O'Reilly grades Denver's 48-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Check out the complete story.

San Diego 48, Denver 20

Yeah, a lopsided game. But hey, coming back to within eight points after a horrible 1st half is hardly something to throw away. There's a reason San Diego is ranked so highly, and they showed it. And, frankly, there's a reason (OK, more than one) that the Broncos aren't very highly rated, and they showed it as well. A 28 point loss is really no worse than a one point loss (there's no "almost" column in the standings). The important thing here is that KC and the Jets also lost, and Cincy and Denver still have to play.

This ain't over, folks! The Broncos still control their own destiny for the most part. Win out - and I think that's VERY doable in Arizona next week as well as two home games against San Francisco and Cincinnati - and the Broncos can be in the playoffs still.

Offense: C+
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It was interesting to watch quarterback Jay Cutler today. He made a huge improvement over his play last week, and I suspect it'll be that much better again next week. The fun thing was to watch him starting in the third quarter - he just clicked. It was almost like somebody threw a switch from "HUH?" to "Oh, I get it!". And that gives me a WHOLE lot of faith in the future of this offense. You could also see his synergy with tight end Tony Scheffler (who made a spectacular catch for the second TD), and he started clicking with wide receivers Rod Smith and Javon Walker a lot better as well.

The running game (when they actually tried it) worked pretty well again for the second straight game. 162 yards from Bell & Bell is nothing to sneeze at. I think Tatum Bell, if he stays healthy, can really be the back they expected him to. And I'll point out - Mike Bell is a rookie, who's pretty much gotten just rookie snaps. Too many people forget that. Heck, he had a 4.6 yard average on 10 carries today. I think with a healthy Cedric Cobbs, a healthy Cecil Sapp, and a quarterback in Cutler who learns the game and becomes more comfortable, thereby freeing up the fullbacks to receive and run, the running game has tremendous potential to explode. Yeah, I want the next Terrell Davis in the draft. But even without him, there's every reason to believe things can be a heckuva lot better for the future.

Defense: D
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Let's see: Charger possessions: punt, TD, TD, TD, TD, punt, punt, FG, FG, TD, TD. Need anything more be said, really?

Alright then, I'll say it - the defense was terrible again.They played a one quarter game today, holding the Chargers to something like 37 yards in the third quarter. But I think it speaks volumes that coach Mike Shanahan went for it twice on fourth down in his own territory, rather than trusting the defense to stop the Chargers.

They were pretty effective holding Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson down today, but the eight-man box showed just how vulnerable the Broncos defensive backs are, mainly in the person of Darrent Williams. If memory serves, nearly all the big pass plays came against him. Yes, every cornerback is going to give up a play when he takes a chance to make a play. But Williams didn't just give up one or two or three. There's really no reason for a team to throw Bailey's way, when a good receiver can easily make Williams look silly. That doesn't mean the other DBs were faultless, far from it. But Williams really stood out in his mediocrity.

Special Teams: F
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The punts kick returns are terrible, both on punts and kickoffs. Only kicker Jason Elam did his job today. I watch San Diego's punter Mike Scifres punt and he hangs the ball high enough so that his coverage team easily gets down the field to down it inside the 10. I watch Denver's Paul Ernster and see him line-drive punts for big returns because his coverage team can't make it down the field. I see him line-drive kickoffs instead of blasting them through the end zone (which he did only once today, I think). Ernster needs to go. Also, we need a natural kick return guy (wasn't that advertised for Hixon when he was drafted, before he was injured?). We need a better special teams coach.

Coaching: C
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This was a much better game plan for Cutler to execute, and it showed results. However, I'm at a loss to explain why, when the running game was going so well (AGAIN!!!), they back away from it, tossing the game back into the heart of what San Diego does best, which is rush the quarterback. The defensive game plan was as good as can be expected, they did (by and large) hold Tomlinson back (to me, it looked like they weren't too interested in stopping him for his third TD). But the special teams coach (Ronnie Bradford) MUST GO!!!



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